Humans are depleting fresh water sources faster than natural processes can replenish them, even as climate change threatens to reduce the supply of fresh water still further. Water is second only to air as an essential substance to support human life. As access to adequate supplies of water is increasingly threatened, we edge closer to the prospect of water wars.
According to a recent article in the Independent (UK), British Defence Secretary John Reid warns that the "tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur" is at least partly due to the shortage of water and farmland. "We should see this as a warning sign," considering that things are only going to get worse.
The article casts water use into context:
The recommended basic water requirement per person per day is 50 litres. But people can get by with about 30 litres: 5 litres for food and drink and another 25 for hygiene.
Some countries use less than 10 litres per person per day. Gambia uses 4.5, Mali 8, Somalia 8.9, and Mozambique 9.3.
By contrast the average US citizen uses 500 litres per day, and the British average is 200.
In the West, it takes about eight litres to brush our teeth, 10 to 35 litres to flush a lavatory, and 100 to 200 litres to take a shower.
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